Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Power Line?


    a talk by Julian V. Noble, Professor of Physics, UVa

Will my appliances give me

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The End

So why do some people fear power lines?

How does electric power work?

What is electromagnetic radiation?

(and how does it affect you?)

Why do people think ELF affects health?

Perhaps I should finish by remarking that scientists dealing with unsub- stantiated claims and anecdotal evidence labor under a major difficulty. We can't prove a negative proposition—“power lines don't cause hives”—any more than you can prove you didn't commit last week's murder.

That is why the police have to try to prove the definite proposition that you committed the murder. And it is why scientists have to start with a definite idea—“power lines do cause hives”—use it to make a definite prediction, and see whether that prediction is verified.

But if the prediction disagrees with our experience, that does not mean we have proved the proposition was false. It just means that the proposition is less likely to be true than it was before we ran the experiment.

Scientists' inability to prove the negative drives laymen and politicians crazy. But it is also what makes a (good) scientist worth listening to.

The End. (This time I mean it.)